Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith. Mormonism 101 is available at your favorite Christian bookstore or online at mrm.org. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. We continue looking at the book, the LDS Gospel Topics Series, A Scholarly Engagement.
This book was published in late 2020 by Signature Books, and it was edited by Matthew L. Harris and Newell G. Bringhurst. Today we are going to be examining the subject of plural marriage once again, and this is found in chapter 8 titled Remembering, Forgetting, and Re-Remembering 19th Century LDS Plural Marriage. This chapter was authored by George D. Smith. If you were to look at the back where it lists all the contributors to these various chapters, and there are 13 chapters in this book, George D. Smith is the co-founder of Signature Books. When we did the introduction to this book, we talked more about George D. Smith and his role at Signature, but he is, according to the bio, an award-winning author of several books on Mormon history, as well as of articles published in the Journal of Mormon History, the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, Free Inquiry, and Dialogue, a Journal of Mormon Thought. Having read some of George D. Smith's writings, he certainly has a pretty good handle on LDS history, though personally I don't get the impression that he would be considered a true-believing Mormon.
I'm sure there's probably a lot of aspects of LDS history that troubles him, as it does trouble a lot of faithful members, you might say. But this chapter is fascinating because, for one, Eric, I think the subject of plural marriage and its connection to Mormonism is always fascinating. As we've said many times on this show, you really can't discuss the subject of polygamy and the history of Mormonism without showing that there was a lot of deception involved.
And George Smith is going to cover some of that, and he's going to also cover a lot of the duplicity when it comes to this subject. But the first paragraph, we cannot get past the first paragraph without having something to say and critique, because in that first paragraph, George D. Smith cites the essay, Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah. On December 17, 2013, the LDS Church-produced essay Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah appeared online as part of the church's new Gospel Topics Outreach Series. According to this officially sanctioned anonymous essay, quote, The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that the marriage of one man to one woman is God's standard except at specific periods when he, God, has declared otherwise, end quote, to a living LDS Church prophet. Now we've talked about this before, and one of the issues that the LDS Church has often raised when it comes to the subject of plural marriage is it tries to give the impression that just as Joseph Smith claimed to be commanded by God to enter into polygamy, so too God commanded individuals in the Old Testament to enter into polygamy as well. We have stood very firm, and we're going to stand firm on this issue again, that there is no place in the Bible that hints that anyone who practiced plural marriage in the Old Testament was commanded by God to do so. But if you were to look at this statement that opens this essay, Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, where it says that the Bible, the Bible teaches that the marriage of one man to one woman is God's standard, and that's what it teaches. But when it goes on to say, except at specific periods when he, God, has declared otherwise, you will not find that in the Bible.
So that is misleading. Well, Bill, I could hear somebody saying, Wait a minute, there's an end note here, and they cite six or seven different biblical sources. What would you say to those? If you were to look at each of those end notes, and they're all from Genesis, the book of Genesis, you're not going to find what the opening line says in this essay. You're not going to find where it says that God is making an exception at a specific period. In other words, he's not commanding these individuals to enter into polygamy.
Let me just give you several. Genesis 16, 3, they have cited, which says, In Sarai, Abram's wife took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years. So there you have a statement of fact, but it's nowhere saying where God instructed that. How about Genesis 25, 1, they list. Then again, Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And then it lists in Genesis 29, 21 through 30, it talks about the issue with Jacob, and Laban, and Leah, and Rachel, and that whole story. But again, there's nowhere in that passage that talks about how God instructed that, it was all about Laban, and how Laban required Jacob to marry both of his daughters.
And then one other would be Genesis 30, verses 3 through 4, and verse 9 is talking about Bilhah, who married Jacob. So here you have these different cases of historical fact, but this is going beyond what the essay says in the first sentence. I guess you could say, Eric, what bothers me is while I'm ready to commend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for coming out with these essays, and as we've used this word over and over again, and it's almost getting boring, the word transparency, the Church is in fact being more transparent with its history. I commend them for that. But don't insult our intelligence by giving us these bogus endnotes and trying to make it sound as if the Bible supports what you're saying in the essay.
Don't do that. If you want to say that the Book of Mormon says that there's going to be times when God can change his mind, that's fine, because you can find that in the Book of Mormon, but you don't find that in the Bible. So take the word Bible out of that opening line, and perhaps then I don't have a big problem with it. Well, and the only reference I give from the Book of Mormon is Jacob 2 27 through 30, which says, Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord. For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife, and concubines he shall have none. And then it goes to verse 30 and says, For if I will say it the Lord of hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people, otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. And so we have in verse 30 the only possibility would be to have children. It would appear, and of course as we've talked about several times, we don't have any concrete evidence to show that Joseph Smith fulfilled that.
Some might surmise that he had children with women who were already married, and those children were assumed to be the children of their first husband, but we don't have any absolute proof that he had any offspring through these plural relationships. Now let's look at page 214. What does it say in the first paragraph? It says, Following the posting of plural marriage and families in early Utah, New York Times op-ed journalist Timothy Egan described once visiting 19th century LDS leader Brigham Young's winter home in St. George, Utah, where he asked a docent the obvious question, Where did the other women sleep? Egan noted the tour guides blush. It was obvious that the question embarrassed her. Let me stop you there, because I have to admit I have talked about plural marriage and Brigham Young when I visit a beehive house downtown.
I want to hear for myself what the guide, or the docent in this case, is going to say about that, because sometimes they don't bring it up, sometimes they do. And so I've asked similar questions to that, perhaps not one just like that, because I already knew when visiting that house that only one wife at a time ever slept in that house with Brigham Young, and she had her own room, by the way. But we should mention that the essay that Timothy Egan is referring to is not the essay that George D. Smith is responding to in this chapter. He's actually responding to the essay that dealt with plural marriage in Nauvoo and Kirtland, because that one came out a month prior to Timothy Egan writing his op-ed piece. So he's referring to a completely different essay.
The next sentence, though, I think can become confusing. And it says, many devout members of the LDS church had not known that plural marriage was an important part of the church's history. The practice of plural marriage, if not hidden, had been in the shadows for many years. Now, we looked up Timothy Egan's op-ed in the New York Times. He never says this, so we have to assume this is George D. Smith inserting that thought.
And the reason why we want to bring that out is because the very next line refers back to Egan. This is not Egan saying that many members in the LDS church had not known that plural marriage was an important part of the church's history. Bill, I would think that most Mormons over the years have known that. Perhaps they didn't know about Joseph Smith's polygamy, so I think that the essay that came out in 2014 could have been a shock for many Latter-day Saints. For the most part, not only do most Mormons know this, but even most non-Mormons.
I think you're probably very correct on that. If there's one thing that people seem to know about Mormons is that they used to practice polygamy. People who, for instance, go out on the streets and just ask people, what do you think about the Mormon church, which it was called when these interviews were given that I'm thinking of. It wasn't uncommon for someone to think that they practice polygamy even to this day. Some people think that. I certainly don't think anyone living in Utah would have been totally ignorant of that. That seems to be a pretty common understanding among Latter-day Saints, at least in the state of Utah, because we have so many people here who are related to polygamists of Mormonism's past. So I don't know if that statement is entirely correct, but I'm not doubting that many people have joined the church over the years not knowing about that. Certainly I would say that's true. The rest of the paragraph says, Egan explained that he was simply curious about the conjugal timing of the man who was married to 55 women and was not trying to probe into the sexual acrobatics of the great pioneer. Considering it ironic that it took the Mormon church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, Egan concluded on a more positive note that the Mormon church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past.
And I would agree with that. I am glad that the church has become much more honest about its past, but as we've mentioned in this series, Eric, being honest sometimes has its negative repercussions. And when you have people who belong to your church who have been led to believe that many of the things that you are now admitting to were incorrectly assumed to be lies by enemies of the church, you can see why that is going to affect a lot of members in a way that is not going to be positive. We need to emphasize again, the reason why we think these essays are valuable in a witnessing situation is because sometimes bringing up the LDS church's past will open the eyes. It's a bit of shock value for a Latter-day Saint to hear some of these things that they may have never heard before. And what we're trying to do is get them to see that they have been misled. And I don't think that's an incorrect way of sharing the gospel. It's not the gospel proper at this point, but certainly I'm going to use that to eventually lead in to why I believe the Bible needs to be trusted and Joseph Smith needs to be rejected. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at www.mrm.org where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-15 01:41:09 / 2023-11-15 01:46:27 / 5